On Sunday 30 April 2017 Aspera Solutions took part in the Sunday Business Post Annual ERP Report. Journalist Jason Walsh interviewed Lonan Byrne, Aspera’s MD and Paul Egan, Sales Manager Ireland as part of the report.
Areas that Aspera covered within the interview were:
Founded in 1987 and initially working in production control systems, Aspera Solutions first moved into enterprise resource planning (ERP) in the 1990s. Today, the company offers two ERP solutions, one mainly serving process manufacturing and the other servicing manufacturers in a range of sectors.
Since 1995, Aspera Solutions has been selling various iterations of Aptean Ross ERP, and in 2001 began to offer Epicor in Ireland and Britain.
“Aptean Ross ERP tends to play in the process manufacturing sectors,” said Paul Egan, sales manager, Ireland, at Aspera Solutions.
Aspera Solutions clients using Aptean Ross ERP include Glenhaven Foods, Nature’s Best and Pat the Baker.
Epicor clients do include some food production businesses, such as All in All Ingredients, but also Colourtrend Paints, Fleetwood Paints and IJM Timberframe Housing. Epicor has a strong reference base within manufacturing in general, especially within discrete manufacturing.
“Ross typically is used in process manufacturing, we do have clients in food manufacturing using Epicor, but there are certain nuances to the process, and the customer’s need drives it – we never try to force customers down one road,” said Egan.
Egan said that one technical benefit to Epicor that appeals to a wide variety of users is that it is built on a 100 per cent Microsoft stack.
“The database is SQL Server and the entire framework is .net technology & SOA design,” he said.
The general business size Epicor focuses on tier-two, from ten plus users up to hundreds,” Egan said.
These sizes of businesses in particular find the Microsoft stack reassuring, as a combination of a well-known environment and Epicor’s design means customisation doesn’t mean getting stuck.
“They may have legacy and proprietary solutions, people are concerned that they can get version locked, especially if it’s heavily customised.
“The Epicor system comes with a set of tools meaning you can make customisation to the product without altering the underlying data. You’ll never get version tied,” said Egan.
As a modern piece of software, Epicor can be deployed in a number of ways, depending on customer needs.
“It can be cloud or on-premise,” said Egan. “And even if you install on-premise you can have access through a browser, tablet or phone.
“If you want to go fully cloud, you can, but you need to understand why you’re doing it: do you want to cut costs, and will cloud do that, or do you not have an IT section and don’t want to? Hosting is also an option,” he said.
For Egan, this level of customer engagement – attempting to get to the bottom of what decisions are being taken, and why, is one of Aspera Solutions’ key selling points. “We don’t do a technology push. Instead, we ask what is driving the customer need.”
“We’re doing this a long time, doing ERP since 1995, and we have been in business since 1987,” said Lonan Byrne, founder and managing director of Aspera Solutions. “With Epicor 10, we have an agile ERP system – that flies in the face of how people think about ERP. Over the years, ERP has been synonymous with rigidity. The idea that it may be adaptable as a customer’s business develops is quite alien, but E10 for Epicor allows you to rewire business processes. “There’s adaptability built in to the product,” said Byrne.
When it comes to the cloud, Paul Egan said that a push toward full software-as-a-service (SaaS) is less common.
“In the tier two sector, I rarely see true SaaS solutions being used. In tier three, yes, but it tends not to be customisable. We find that businesses want to protect their unique selling points and unique business model,” he said.
Being directly aimed at the mid-tier of the market doesn’t mean that Epicor is not used by the largest multinationals. Instead, it means it can be used in conjunction with other software.
“It’s a hub and spoke model, with a tier one system like Oracle or SAP at the global headquarters and tier two systems locally.
“In part it is because they require flexibility and local support, but also, tier one ERP software can be quite rigid, and there are statutory reporting requirements and local regulations,” he said.
Aspera Solutions has delivered an Epicor ERP system to a number of major players, including WD-40.
In any case, with businesses large or small, the objective is to get the design right.
“Every engagement is different. Our company takes a consultative approach as opposed to a hard sell. Our objective is to not just deliver, but to get a referral from existing customers,” said Egan.
Some customers engage directly with Aspera, said Egan, and these may or may not have someone in-house who has been involved in ERP implementation. At the other end of the scale, there are also customers who engage an independent consultant. In both cases, though, planning is key.
“You have to involve key stakeholders across the business. We can help them work out the deliverables if they don’t have them, and they, those stakeholders, should be central to the evaluation,” said Egan.
“Customers need to understand that ERP is a business transformation project, not an IT project,” he said.
Jason Walsh Paris correspondent of The Straits Times, Singapore; Foreign correspondent of The CS Monitor, Boston; Ireland correspondent of Vox Pop, Arte television, Paris; Contributor: The Sunday Business Post, The New European, The Irish Examiner